The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office inAlaska will face Congress Thursday over allegations the agencycolluded with locals tribes to purposely block a planned mine project.
EPA’s head administrator Dennis McLerran will testify in frontof the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Thursday.
The proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay reportedlywould have been a prosperous project for both developers and thelocal economy were it not shuttered by an EPA report showing itwould harm the ecology of the state’s salmon population.
McLerran represents areas of Oregon, Washington, Idaho andAlaska.
Thursday’s hearing will be the second on the Pebble Mine issuefor the EPA. The first happened in November and resulted inRepublican congressmen criticizing the EPA over its supposed“predetermined plans” to block the mine.
The GOP believes the EPA colluded with Alaskan tribes to torpedothe mine project.
U.S. District Judge Russel Holland decided in March that the EPA withheld large sections ofdocuments mine developers asked for in conjunction with the mine.Holland wrote at the time that he had “no confidence” in EPA’scompetency on document filing.
EPA ecologist Phillip North, reports show, allegedly worked handin hand with local tribes to stymie the project. North used hispersonal email to consult the tribes on how to block the plan,according to a report from the Inspector General’s office.
North edited and altered a petition under an aspect of the CleanWater Act through his private email account in 2010, which allowedthe tribes to veto the plan.
He left for Australia to avoid investigation.
“When reviewing the draft petition, it was not clear whether[North] participated in a personal or official capacity,” thereport noted. “It was also not clear whether commenting on thedraft petition using personal email was allowable under the jobduties of [North].”
The EPA denies it blocked the mine — instead, the agencymaintains the Pebble Mine is still being reviewed. Regulatorssuggested in 2014 that it could use a preemptive veto tabling themine.
Republicans lambasted the entire situation.
The committee’s Republican chairman, Texas Rep. Lamar Smithlambasted the Inspector General for failing to produce North’shidden emails.
“If we allow the EPA to pursue this path of action the agencywill have the power to tell states, local government, and evenprivate citizens how they can develop their land before a permitapplication has ever been filed. This is unprecedented anddangerous,” he said in November.
A study conducted in 2013 by Alaskan economist Scott Goldsmith,and paid for by the First National Bank of Alaska, showed that themine, were it developed, would contribute to the overall Alaskaneconomy.
“A recent study indicates that the Pebble mining prospect insouthwest Alaska could, if developed, could make a significantcontribution to the Alaskan economy, given its measured andindicated resources 55 billion pounds of copper … and 67 millionpounds of gold,” Goldsmith wrote at the time of the study.
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